on January 15, 2011
What a find! I was almost not going to buy this but I'm so, so glad I did.
From the cover and the typography, you'd think this was a cookbook for college students trying to be vegan while living in a dorm. If I had published it, I would have gone in a completely different direction and designed a book that was as upscale and sophisticated as the recipes. As the saying goes, don't judge a book by its cover.
Shagrin's genius is her unique "meat" recipes of differently prepared seitan (veal, pork, beef, etc.) and tofu (scallops, sea bass, bacon, etc.). These serve as the base of many of the recipes. From there you can go fancy-schmancy, such as dijonnaise-crusted beef tenderloin medallions with bearnaise sauce over roasted eggplant and garlic mashed potatoes, or go with gourmet versions of down-market foods such as orange-sesame grilled chicken fingers. Or you can stuff your face with veganized Twinkies and nacho cheese Doritos. Yes, you heard me: vegan bearnaise sauce and vegan Twinkies. You'll also find fresh pasta - finally, egg-free pasta! - pizza dough, and other staples.
I don't think this book would be suitable for a newbie vegan or newbie chef. Some recipes are complicated and time-consuming (even intimidating). Some ingredients are expensive or hard to find (exotic mushrooms and such). A few recipes call for commercial products like Dr. Cow's nut cheeses or Daiya, and she uses a lot of MimiCreme although there are several recipes for making a go of it from scratch.
But overall the food looks astonishingly good. I knocked off a star because I spotted a few editorial glitches, and some vague instructions such as "cook until well done." How will I know when "well done" is? What does "well done" look like?
on January 21, 2011
Just got my copy of Jenn Shagrin's VEGANIZE THIS a couple days ago, and it has been a delight to pour over. I understand a little why there have been some negative reviews for this book, but I highly recommend it anyway.
Assuredly, it is *not* a primer on veganism. A new vegan would probably be overwhelmed by the ambitious recipes. Nor is it a 'quick and easy weeknight vegan meals for less' kind of book. It would not fall into the 'super healthy, live to 100' vegan cookbook either. It is something quite different and hard to categorize. I wouldn't call it a haute cuisine gourmet vegan cookbook, i.e. Tal Ronnen's "Conscious Cook", though many of the recipes might qualify as gourmet. But the tone is too irreverent and off-beat and doesn't take itself too seriously for haute cuisine, and furthermore, among the offerings include a recipe for vegan twinkies, for gosh sakes, and homemade vegan doritos.
No, this is a vegan cookbook that appears to be about pushing the boundaries about what is possible in a vegan kitchen. It stands out as a singular book that begins its own category--XXtreme Vegan?
Here's some of the recipes that caught my eye:
*DIY Vegan Mozzarella That Melts
*Coconut Vinegar-Cured Tofu Scallops with Lemongrass-Basil Cream Sauce and Cilantro-Garlic Coconut Rice
*Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Raviloli with Heirloom tomato, Strawberry and Chocolate Marinara
*Roasted White Eggplant Fettucine Alfredo with Fresh Fennel and Spinach
*Quinoalenta and Rosemary Squash Chips with Wild Mushrooms and Vegan Mascarpone
*Spanish Purple Pepper Vegan Beef Stew
*Coffee-Rubbed Vegan Steak Tacos with Grilled Lobster Mushroom, Heirloom Cherry Tomato, and Corn Salsa
*Fire-Roasted Pumpkin, Hazelnut and Black Cumin Pie with Vanilla Bean Creme Fraiche
You see what I mean? This is cooking to impress. I am absolutely delighted how vegan cuisine has evolved since my college days 25 years ago, when the only vegan cookbook around was from PETA, and when you really had to sacrifice for your food ethics, and when soymilk from the co-op tasted like "bean tea". Back then I would never have foreseen what a vibrant, creative and diverse cuisine would evolve from ethical veganism. And this book is one of the happy results.
VEGANIZE THIS is a book for vegan foodies, for hobbyists and vegans who love a challenge, who like to spend a long time in the kitchen creating dishes that will absolutely astonish and make you grin. It is also for admirers of those who do. Those who would watch Vegan Iron Chef on cable tv, if such a thing existed. Yes, there are lots of ingredients, and there are many that are unfamiliar to me, and I'm a double decade veg*n. The author does love to use a product called Mimic Creme, but she also includes a homemade version. Take note that there are a good many more simple recipes that wouldn't pose any problem to a vegan cook with normal skills, that don't require arcane and hard-to-find ingredients, particularly in the dessert section, which excites me.
I may never find time to try the really mind-boggling looking recipes, but I find it very inspirational what a really brilliant and creative vegan chef can do when she puts her mind to it. In sum, I'm glad I bought this really fun, free spirited and inspirational vegan cookbook, but then I collect vegan cookbooks, particularly the offbeat ones. I will look for this author in future. She's really one to watch. Shagrin says in Veganize This! that she could write a whole book about baking vegan cakes. Miss Shagrin? We are waiting...
on February 14, 2011
There are two things I love: hugging cows and making good food. I had been trying to resist purchasing ANOTHER cookbook to add to my collection, but I loved Jenn as a blogger and ... well ... the hold out only lasted one week.
Let me tell you guys: THE BEST SEITAN RECIPES EVER. I found myself DRINKING THE BROTH WITH A SPOON while I prepared the chicken seitan. Do not let the one-star reviewers dissuade you from purchasing this cookbook. I think people must confuse making your own seitan with buying salty, expensive faux meats.
The cuisine is phenomenal, creative, and UNIQUE. I can't tell you how many recipes I have for the same basic vegan staples so to cook from this is a treat.
Here's the only caveat: the recipes do take some skills. This is not a "Beginner's Book to Cooking" - vegan or otherwise. But if you feel competent and secure in the kitchen and are looking for recipes "to get you laid" (as Jenn puts it), you will not be disappointed. My husband and I totally "Oooh" and "Ahhhh" over every recipe. And, yes, the majority of them are "meat-based." But, again - you're making your own seitan! And, obviously, these recipes are not supposed to be for dinner every night! They're treats!
Also: don't be scared off by the use of MimicCreme - it's just ALMONDS AND CASHEWS. Seriously. It's worth hunting down! If you can't find it, the replacements she recommends work just as well - they just take more prep time.
on December 27, 2013
It is difficult to sum up this cookbook in a few words. On the one hand, the recipes can be infuriatingly complex, with unnecessarily obscure ingredients. But on the other hand, she offers so many new approaches to vegan staples, including some stellar seitan recipes, seafood-style tofu and dairy replacement ideas, that I think many adventurous vegan/vegetarians would do well to have it on their shelf, and just adapt the recipes to ingredients that they can find or afford.
The thing about this book, I am finding, is not to take the ingredients lists too seriously. If you do, you won't be able to make very many of the recipes. Even among the wonderful seitan recipes, almost all call for shallot powder. I have visited a half-dozen spice shops in a large city and none of them stock it -- it appears that the only way for me to obtain such a thing is to order it online. But if you make some substitutions (I ground up dried shallots...or used more onion powder), the recipes suddenly open up. Similarly, many recipes call for expensive (or virtually unobtainable) brands of vegan cheese, including some that seem to be out of production, or perhaps only available in one or two cities in the U.S. Again, just use whatever you can find. Or if you have the books "Artisan Vegan Cheese" or "The Cheesy Vegan," make your own! As for the use of Better than Bouillon in most recipes, I love the stuff so much that I mail order it when I can't find it locally in sufficient quantities. But any bouillon will do!
The recipe names are very ambitious, but nonetheless very appetizing to someone like myself that craves novel and unusual flavor combinations. I'm not afraid to track down unusual ingredients, and have ample access to ethnic and specialty grocery stores, but the preparation time and cost of many of these recipes put them into a "once in a while" category, even with substitutions.
A few notes on recipes that I have tried:
In the Coconut Vinegar-Cured Tofu Scallops recipe, I spent a good two days in preparation. I obtained coconut vinegar (another expensive ingredient), marinated the scallops, made the vinegar cure, marinated again...and the end result, after a day and a half of work, were tofu discs that just tasted overwhelmingly of vinegar and nothing else. If I made it again I would use very little vinegar at all, and I probably would skip the step of making the initial scallop marinade. They look cute and the lemongrass sauce is a nice touch. As a side note, a lot of tofu is wasted when you cut out the discs. I would suggest just making squares.
I made the Juniper Berry and White Peppercorn-rubbed Field Roast recipe but I don't think the additional spices added a lot to it -- Field Roast does pretty well on its own. I bought the spices from bulk jars, rather than having to shell out for a larger amount of spices that I won't use very often (i.e. juniper berries).
I enjoyed the Hatch Chile Chicken Cacciatore, minus black garlic, but fortunately Hatch peppers were in season here when I bought the book. I used Beyond Meat chicken instead of seitan and it was very tasty.
This is one of the few cookbooks I've bought recently that actually includes a proper roux in the gumbo recipe, rather than a shortcut, so I give that attention to detail a thumbs up! I haven't been able to try a great many of the other recipes, due to the long preparation times needed for the ones that appeal to me, but they all look very appetizing. I have made lots of the seitan though, and used it in recipes from many other cookbooks with great success.
The beefy seitan could use a little more dark coloring (I may use some Gravy Master in the future to darken it) but has great texture. The pork-style seitan is perfect and worth every extra bit of work. The book is worth it just for this recipe!
One of the minor problems of the book, the inclusion of currently-out-of-production MimicCreme in so many recipes, has its flip side though: she offers five ways to make your own vegan creme. I found the cashew-based one to be very wonderful.
I have no problem with the author's informal style or humor, and I am not particularly bothered by layout, which staggers many recipes over several pages, but I will add that it seems an odd choice to package the book like it will be "down home" cooking with a fast food color scheme on the cover, while the recipes are all clunky gourmet word soup.
So while it drives me crazy to know that I will never be able to find heirloom white tomatoes unless I grow them myself (which I may very well do), I really do enjoy the creative recipes presented here. Like many people who enjoy vegan cooking though, I don't just want piles of seitan and imitation dairy. I like vegetable and bean-based recipes using simple, whole ingredients, and there are a fair number of recipes here that don't rely on a meaty centerpiece. I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone, but it is really a great resource and starting point for people who like to make everything from scratch, and aren't afraid of a challenge. Don't be too intimidated by the use of brand names in so many recipes -- you don't have to use the ones listed, and the homemade versions she suggests are great.
on January 8, 2011
I have yet to make any recipes from it - so keep in mind I have no first-hand experience - but I would highly recommend someone look through the book themselves instead of blind-buying the book. It uses a large amount of prepared vegan substitutes (which is a huge pet-peeve of mine). The book opens by listing some recipes for gluten or fruit flavored as meat substitutes and then goes on to cheese substitutes. Some of the cheese subs themselves call for pre-packaged vegan sour cream or pre-packaged vegan cream cheese. The vegan goat cheese calls for sour cream, cream cheese, and soy feta.
A good number of the other recipes have similar issues. Some of them call for multiple types of Teese or Cheezely (neither of which have I ever seen). There is a ranch dressing recipe that calls for vegan sour cream, veganaise, vegan cream cheese, soy milk, soy creamer... and then the spices.
Overall this is probably the most disappointed I have been in a vegan cookbook in a long time. Maybe I will find some recipes to try that will impress me and my tune will change but I wanted to give a heads up to folks that they may want to inspect the book themselves before blind buying.
on March 11, 2011
I was so looking forward to this book! However, I sent the book back the day after I got it, after thoroughly reading through it. The recipes look inspired and delicious, so the food isn't the issue. So why did I send it back? Simply put, I prefer my cookbooks free of jokes and stereotypes about fat people. This book makes several jokes about fat people predicated on baseless stereotypes, and I'm not interested in supporting that.
VEGANIZE THIS! is awkward. I am so glad I got this from the library.
These recipes are VERY COMPLICATED. The ingredient lists are long, and often refer to other pages' recipes to complete a single recipe. One recipe had 4 additional recipes in it. That means to complete a single dinner, you'd have to cook a total of 5 recipes.
Worst of all, though, is the author's non-funny commentaries thoughout this cookbook. I cringed when I read them and wanted to wash my brain because they were so darn bad. She tries so hard to be funny, but it's difficult to be funny with the written word unless that's your forum (it's not hers). This cookbook is proof of that. And fat jokes? Please. Grow. Up.
If you think chapters called "Recipes guaranteed to get you laid!" or "Hail Seitan! And his followers..." are clever, you might be able to tolerate the low grade humor and immaturity in this cookbook. If I was 17, I might think this was real cool. And I appreciate good, perverse humor (this just isn't up to par).
If only the publisher had worked with Jenn Shagrin to simplify some of the recipes and rebrand the cookbook, it could have been worth owning.
on May 22, 2011
1. Many of the recipe titles are unnecessarily long. They could have been easily shortened for readers' convenience.
2. There are often too many flavors in competition with one another. Flavors become muddled if the recipe is too busy. A lot of time and money will be wasted on ingredients you can't even taste.
3. Many of the ingredients are expensive and/or difficult to find; vegan cheese, vegan sour cream, vegan feta, etc.
4. The author's narrative writing and jokes are weird, considering the context of a cookbook.
5. The title suggests a collection of recipes revising old favorites into vegan solutions. Other than alternatives for some meats and seafoods, the rest of the recipes are usually random dishes, not common favorites.
If you want to learn more about Vegan cooking (vegetarian plus no animal-based food, such as cheese and eggs), this is a useful resource. The only previous Vegan cookbook that I have explored is Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook by Kim Barnouin. By way of comparison, I find the latter somewhat preferable to Veganize This!
However, this volume is a fine introduction to Vegan cooking. The book begins with the necessities of a Vegan pantry, including a lot of replacement components (e.g., MimicCreme is a substitute for heavy cream). The next section is an important one--how to build Vegan equivalents for meats, chicken, fish and shellfish. The author refers to these as "seitan" recipes. She notes the importance of (Page 2): "developing a setain recipe that is not only delicious to vegans and omnivores, but one that the novice can approach with confidence." I do wish that the author had not been so cute in calling the second chapter "Recipes guaranteed to get you laid." Maybe I'm an old timer, but I think it's in rather poor taste.
On the other hand, recipes here and later do promise to be tasty. Some illustrations: Vegan goat-cheese, spinach, and sun-dried tomato stuffed pork chops (etc.), Eggs Benedict Florentine omelets with sage Hollandaise sauce, Pan-seared white pepper tofu scallops with basil cream sauce served over linguine, and Vegan quattro formaggio white truffle macaroni and cheese.
So, overall, a useful cookbook, explaining Vegan cooking and providing an interesting array of recipes.
This cookbook got my creative cooking juices flowing and out of a longtime rut. Amazingly so! I am making my way into cooking vegan for myself, but have been cooking from scratch (I'm an expert home-baker) for the last 20 years and have a cookbook collection of over 75 books. I am a meat eater/cook, although I've cooked extensively from Moosewood Cookbooks since 1986.
Jenn is onto something with her recipes that bridges conventional animal product cooking to vegan fare that will shock mainstream animal-product loving naysayers. This book isn't about "How to create vegan replacement ingredients to cook recipes." Plenty of other vegan cookbooks and websites offer that. In fact, I am in the process of learning to make my own vegan cheeses, yogurts and other dairy/meat subs to use as ingredients in recipes.
**Instead, Jenn's book immediately reminded me of the complex and amazing flavors in recipes using fresh spices and herbs that you get from a chef like Bobby Flay.**
Her Seitan broth/marinade recipes are GENIUS. I would use them on tofu or tempeh -- or even (gasp!) real meat -- they are that good and show she has a talent for dissecting flavors and recreating them. A seafood marinade to create tofu "scallops" or "clams"? When I read the list of ingredients for each type broth, I was like "OMG, that's a good idea! Yeah, I can see how that ingredient creates that flavor profile." Then I started thinking on how I can create flavor profiles using a mix of unrelated ingredients. Hmm...
Some reviewers complain about Jenn's use of MimiCreme and Better than Buillion in many recipes. IMO:
1. She gives five (5) different substitutes for the Mimicreme -- I have the ingredients in my pantry to make 3 of them right now. C'mon, don't you have soy milk and cornstarch? Or canned coconut milk, if you cook vegan meals? I had them on hand when I didn't even know what vegan really was.
::UPDATE:: In place of MimiCreme, I _highly_ recommend So Delicious Coconut Creamer in Original. I use it in place of half and half and also cook often with it in place of cream. No coconut taste, great consistency, low in calories and fat. It's also soy-free, vegan and gluten-free.
2. She recommends "Better than Buillion" because they offer commercial-quality VEGAN soup bases. I always have BTB in my pantry already,too, for animal-based soup making. It is consistent, lasts a long time for the price, and produces more complex flavor than just a buillion cube. In fact, I checked today at my local regional supermarket's soup aisle, and they had the BTB vegetable, no chicken and mushroom for $4.99 each right on the shelf.
You could substitute vegetable buillion cubes, or buy BTB Vegan Chicken, Mushroom, or Vegetable bases right here on Amazon in bulk. Split the cost of a 6-pack with a cooking friend(s). One jar will last for months.
Better Than Bouillon Vegan No Chicken Base, 8-Ounce (Pack of 6)
Jenn's has a very distinct writing voice that is on one hand earthy and irreverent, but on the other hand I see she CARES about people in her life and her food with passion. So Jenn I hope the next cookbook is on its way with more beautiful, flavorful and creative vegan recipes.